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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Full Alaska Guide | Alaska Travel Info

If it’s your first time in Fairbanks, one stop you should make is the University of Alaska Museum of the North. If you live here, swing by when you need something to do on a rainy (or a 40 below) day. The museum gives perspective to the state, its vastness, and its natural and cultural diversity. Almost everything here focuses on Alaska and the ‘North’ (go figure). You will, at the very least, leave knowing a bit more about the state and its history when you go out exploring.

The entrance of the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
The entrance of the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

The architecture is top-notch. Designed by Joan Soranno, AIA, of HGA, with GDM, Inc., the building is beautiful and aesthetic, and the team has received numerous awards for this structure. Take a walk around the outside of the building! There are multiple sculptures and totem poles outside. The inside is just as lovely as the outside, with a warm and cozy feel.

Looking at the west side of the Museum of the North
Looking at the west side of the museum at sunrise

Exhibits

This quaint museum is two floors and contains two main exhibit halls along with a few smaller ones. The two main exhibits are the “Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery” and “Gallery of Alaska.” The former has a lot of traditional and modern Alaskan artwork, as well as a lot of photographs, including an Ansel Adams photo of Denali. The Gallery of Alaska is subdivided into regions of Alaska, containing historical artifacts. There is also an exhibit explaining the aurora and another small Hubble Space Telescope exhibit. The scientific and local paleontology exhibits are captivating.

The Collections Gallery on the first floor of the Museum of the North Fairbanks
The Collections Gallery on the first floor
Watching the sunrise over Mt. Hayes in the Alaska Range from the lobby stairwell window in the Museum of the North
Watching the sun rise over Mt. Hayes in the Alaska Range from the lobby stairwell window in the Museum of the North

A unique feature of this museum is the ‘Place Where You Go to Listen.’ Designed by John Luther Adams, a Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, it’s kind of like a little meditation room with ambient light and sound that changes based on the Sun, the Moon, the aurora, and earthquakes, all from real-time monitoring.

Room Where You Go To Listen

There are some shows available for an additional small fee. I was able to see all the shows playing easily on the same day. I’m not sure if this is always the case. If you visit in the summer, definitely see the Dynamic Aurora show since you won’t get to see the lights in person. Don’t expect IMAX® quality sound and light; they’re just some fun short films.

Exhibit in the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery
Exhibit in the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery

Museum Info

At $9-$16 entrance fee per day, the museum won’t kill your wallet (although the gift shop could if you find the right things). The gift shop has a wide variety of Alaskan paraphernalia, including jewelry, masks, wall decorations, and a fantastic selection of books. However, the cafe doesn’t offer a whole lot, so I wouldn’t recommend going in hungry.

300x250 - National Park Lodging

Kids may not find this museum to be particularly exciting. There isn’t anything specifically geared toward children, although there are a lot of bones and stuffed bears. If you ask at the front desk, there is an activity sheet available (recommended grades 4-6). It looks like a neat little scavenger hunt; I’m going to try it next time I’m there.

There’s a lot more at the Museum of the North than what I’ve covered here, and there are also temporary or seasonal exhibits in the hall near the gift shop. Find out more by visiting the museum’s website here. You can also see more pictures on my website here.

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